Housing minister visits Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust projects

Frankie Gunn & Geordie Gunn (J & S Gunn), Tom Mahoney (tenant), Margaret Burgess (housing minister), Yvonne Ross (chair of Dornoch Community Council), Rob Gibson MSP, Alison Macleod (HSCHT)
Frankie Gunn & Geordie Gunn (J & S Gunn), Tom Mahoney (tenant), Margaret Burgess (housing minister), Yvonne Ross (chair of Dornoch Community Council), Rob Gibson MSP, Alison Macleod (HSCHT)

The Scottish Government’s housing minister Margaret Burgess MSP yesterday visited projects that Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) has been involved with in Dornoch and Helmsdale.

In Dornoch, HSCHT has completed six new homes in the past 12 months. The first two properties were built through its first phase of Rent To Buy properties, working with local contractor J & S Gunn. Both are now occupied, with two families now been given the opportunity to own their own home after renting the property for five years before purchasing at a reduced, below-market price. This is made possible by the attachment of a Rural Housing Burden to the property.

Since 2013, the Scottish Government has issued over £7 million to HSCHT’s Rural Rent to Buy scheme, as it continues to develop affordable housing throughout the Highlands.

Right next door to these properties are two new homes developed for the Highland Council through the Greener Homes Initiative. These properties have recently been completed and have already been allocated to residents who have now moved into the properties. The minister got the chance to not only meet these residents, but also view the inside of the homes.

Rent to Buy and Greener Homes projects are being developed across the Highlands thanks to an innovative partnership between Scottish Government, Highland Council and HSCHT.

The various schemes that have been developed through funding from the Scottish Government, have not only provided Dornoch with new varying types of affordable housing solutions, but has also allowed for new members of the community to get on the housing ladder.

Mrs Burgess then went on to visit HSCHT’s brand new homes built by Pat Munro Homes through the Rent To Buy Scheme. Completed at the very end of last year, the two semi-detached properties are now home to very happy residents who are now on their way to owning their own home. Located in the new Deans Park development in Dornoch, one of the tenants was happy to greet the minister and welcome her into her home.

The minister then travelled north to visit the community of Helmsdale to view their community owned housing project. Helmsdale & District Development Trust (HDDT) is spearheading a new community led housing development having built four new homes in the Highland village of Helmsdale, backed by £110,000 of Scottish Government investment.

During her visit to Helmsdale, the housing minister met with new tenants of these properties, the local development trust and many children from the local primary school.

This innovative project is being driven by the community in order to provide community owned housing to ensure the future sustainability of the area. All statutory housing provision in the last 30 years has been provided in neighbouring villages, which has been detrimental and has led to out-migration from the community. Helmsdale went 35 years without any new affordable housing being made available for rent, and held a desire to solve this, as well as the aging demographic of the village.

HSCHT helped with this project in a number of ways, including community engagement and facilitation, a local survey, initial project feasibility and desktop funding options, negotiations with landowners and the local authority and the initial fundraising – a key challenge for the community in order to obtain the vision for this new project.

By partnering the Local Authority, local RSL along with guidance from HSCHT, Helmsdale community were able to deliver a feasible and practical solution to meet their longer term housing needs – four brand new rented homes to be managed by Albyn Housing Association using policies agreed with the Highland Council.

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